Kraków is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and charming cities in the world. Trading routes used to meet in the city on the Wisła (Vistula) river – making this a trading centre and wealthy town – and royal paths met here, too. For almost six centuries, it was Kraków that was the home of the Polish kings. For centuries, it also set trends in culture, science and art. Traces of this rich history can be found today in the many places that are associated with important historical events. Here are five of what we consider to be the most interesting historic places in Kraków.
1. Wawel – a visit to the Polish Kings
A monument to Polish history, the pride of the nation and an architectural treasure. Whatever could be written about Wawel would not be an exaggeration. Even a short walk on the Wawel Hill and a visit to the arcaded Renaissance courtyard, and above all to the cathedral, will transport you to the golden age, centuries ago, when this place was the centre of the Polish state.
2. Sukiennice on the Main Market Square in Kraków – an ancient trading centre
The biggest market square in Europe, bursting with life, and also the centre of Kraków. Arranged around it are many interesting sights, such as: St. Mary’s Church with its magnificent altar by Wit Stwosz, the Ratusz (Town Hall) and the Sukiennice – a historic trading place, where even today there are stalls selling souvenirs and artistic handicraft. Around the Rynek, or Market Square, there are many cafes and restaurants, which have colourful outdoor seating areas during the summer season.
3. The museum under the Market Square – the medieval layer of the city
An exceptional museum a few metres below the surface of the Market Square, at the site of the discovery of medieval brick stalls. The multimedia exhibition – Following the traces of European identity in Kraków – is a veritable treasure trove of information about the history of Kraków, and also about the links between the city and the most important medieval trading and cultural centres in Europe. The burial ground discovered at this site and the remains of the brick stalls and paved roads make unforgettable impression on the visitor.
4. The Defensive Walls – witnesses to Tartar attacks
Together with three medieval towers, the Florian Gate and the Barbican, these are a priceless indication of what the fortifications around Kraków used to look like. The sightseeing route Defensive Walls – Barbican allows the visitor to learn about the city’s defensive structures as well as the history of the fortifications. The small chapel in the Florian Gate passageway is not to miss.
5. Collegium Maius and the University museum – the beginnings of the university tradition
Places full of academic atmosphere, tangible as soon as you enter the inner courtyard. In the museum, you can see a collection of astronomical instruments, professors’ rooms with their furniture and equipment, scientific instruments, works of art and souvenirs. The representative hall, which still plays a ceremonial role at Jagellonian University, is also worthy of note – honorary doctorates and higher academic titles are awarded here.
This is only a very short list of historic places and museums which are definitely worth seeing, even if you are only in Kraków for a few days. Each of them will inspire you to get to know more of the treasures and secrets of Kraków.